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Wood Burning Fireplaces

Wood Burning Fireplaces

Indoor Wood Burning Fireplaces 

There’s nothing better than sitting in front of a cozy fire on a cold night. The warm glow of the flame along with the crackling and popping sounds of the wood add to the ambiance of using a fireplace. It is easy to see why a fireplace can be a great focal point for your living space. Fireplaces offer security and peace of mind, since most fireplaces do not require electricity to function, they are a great way to keep your home warm and safe, even if the power goes out.

Fireplaces can serve as a primary source of heat for the home and at the same time add beauty, style, and an inviting atmosphere to your living space. Most people have enjoyed the comforts of a fire, but many don’t know about the variety of different options when it comes to owning and purchasing a fireplace. 

With a multitude of home heating options available on today’s market, the choices can get overwhelming, but here at Northline Express, we want you to take comfort in choosing your next heating appliance. Let’s find out if a fireplace is a good option for you.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a fireplace?

All fireplaces have the same basic components

  • The firebox - the chamber where the fire is built and the wood burns.
  • The hearth - the floor space in front of the fireplace
  • The damper - the lever that opens and closes the flue
  • The smoke chamber - the area between the firebox and the flue where the smoke mixes
  • The flue - the venting system where the smoke is drawn up and out.

What are the different types of wood-burning fireplaces?

Open Hearth Fireplaces

Open hearth fireplaces also known as masonry fireplaces are traditional stone fireplaces. This is the type of unit most people think of when they think of a fireplace. These are your typical masonry-built stone fireplaces. They are usually built on-site by a builder using stone and fire brick and are usually built at the same time the home is being constructed. As the name suggests, these units have an exposed flame that helps give the room a nice warm glow of firelight. These units can have fireplace doors attached and the use of fire screens can be used as well.

In a masonry fireplace, the firebox, smoke chamber, and flue are usually all constructed from masonry bricks. These units are all about style and enjoying a picturesque fire. They are not considered a good option when it comes to complete home heating. They will add ambient heat, but with these units, most of the heat is lost up and out of the chimney. Sometimes fireplace blowers can be added to give additional heat to the room.

Prefabricated Metal Fireplaces

Prefabricated Metal Fireplaces designs can be referred to as closed fireplaces and also as manufactured fireplaces. Prefabricated Metal Fireplaces also known as “prefabs” are factory-built metal fireplaces where the components are manufactured in a facility before being assembled and installed in a home. These have become more common in newer-built homes and are usually about half the price of masonry units.

In the prefabricated fireplace, the firebox is constructed of metal or steel and is usually lined with refractory or metal panels. The system is then vented with a metal chimney pipe that is housed in a chimney structure, sometimes referred to as a chase. Then the venting goes up and out above the roof and is finished off with a metal chimney cap.

Prefab fireplaces are considered decorative heating appliances and in most cases, it is actually hard to distinguish the difference between a masonry fireplace and a prefabricated fireplace based on their appearance alone. Prefab fireplaces are a nice option when you want the look and feel of a traditional fireplace without having a tall brick structure built.

Prefabricated fireplaces mostly serve as a decorative appliance that adds complementary heat to your living space. In most cases, they are not designed to fully heat a home or living space, but they offer fireplace doors that can be closed when the unit is not in use.

What is a zero-clearance fireplace?

A zero-clearance fireplace is a premanufactured metal firebox that is completely self-contained and insulated. This keeps the outside of the fireplace from getting too hot. This helps protect the materials surrounding the fireplace unit. This allows it to need a very clear distance from combustible materials, such as walls, wood, and paneling.  Zero Clearance Fireplaces can be gas fireplaces and wood fireplaces, but it depends on the model. Not all models are manufactured to use both and as confusing as it sounds not all prefabricated fireplaces are zero-clearance fireplaces. You will want to refer to the manual of the fireplace to review clearance requirements before installing.

Wood Stoves

Wood Stoves can either be built-in insert units or freestanding stove heaters. A wood stove is a closed-combustion heating appliance that homeowners choose when they want to add an alternative heat source to their home. Most wood stove models are traditionally made to be freestanding units, however, now there are some brands that offer units that mimic a fireplace design. 

Wood stoves require completely different venting than fireplaces and it can be labor-intensive to switch out a fireplace for a wood stove. However, with that being said, wood stoves are designed to be considerably more efficient than a traditional wood-burning fireplaces. Most homeowners choose the wood stove option because it gives them the freedom to choose an alternative heat source that will help them lower their electrical and gas bills, while still heating their home.

If you are looking for an appliance that looks stylish, saves energy, and can heat your entire home, then a wood stove insert may be a better option than a traditional or prefabricated fireplace unit.

Why use wood to heat your home?

There are a number of reasons to use wood as the fuel to heat your home. It is a renewable energy source that helps reduce your home energy bills. It is generally an inexpensive fuel source that is abundantly available in most areas. It is also simple to use and when dried properly can produce temperatures of over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Wood fuel heat is a great way to become less dependent on gas and energy companies and to take your energy consumption into your own hands.

How much should I budget for a fireplace project?

The budget is going to vary based on the type of fireplace you choose as well as how the space is currently set up. If you are building a new home then the options are endless. You can choose anything from a masonry-built chimney system to a factory-built fireplace or even a freestanding wood stove. 

A masonry fireplace and chimney structure are going to be your most expensive option and can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to up and over ten thousand dollars. These types of stone fireplaces are all handmade and custom-built to the specific sizing of your home. When they are properly maintained they will last a lifetime and beyond,

A factory-built unit still requires a chimney structure to be crafted during the building stages of new home construction. Sometimes these can be added to an existing home with the addition of a chase built on an exterior wall. These units will also require venting. This type of project is usually about half the price of a masonry fireplace but can range anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to up and over five thousand dollars.

When considering adding an insert, this can be more cost-effective, but it will depend on the shape that the current fireplace system is in and what type of fireplace and venting you are switching over to.

What is a non-catalytic wood stove?

A non-catalytic wood stove uses air tubes and super-heated oxygen to mix with and generate a secondary burn with the gasses and particulates released from burning wood. This results in fewer emissions and an appliance that has greater efficiency. The majority of new wood stove models are non-catalytic.

How to start a fire in a wood-burning fireplace?

The first step to starting a successful fire is to make sure that your firewood is dry and aged properly. For the best results, you want your wood to have a moisture content below 20 percent. If you use firewood with a moisture content above 20 percent then your fire will not burn as hot or as efficiently and will result in more smoke and build-up of creosote in your system.

Outside of the wood moisture content, the key components to starting a fire include a source of ignition, dry kindling, dry firewood, and a good draft. 

You can also check our article that includes some great Fire Starting Tips

Why use a wood-burning fireplace insert?

There are four main reasons that you may want to install a wood-burning fireplace insert: Fuel efficiency, heating efficiency, to help prevent air leaks, and to make your fireplace more decorative. 

Is it worth having a wood-burning fireplace?

This question really depends on the reason you want to add a wood-burning fireplace to your home. If you are just looking for a way to add some ambiance and comfort by watching a fire burning in your home, then a masonry or prefabricated fireplace could be perfect for you. However while these units can add a bit of complimentary heat to your area, they are not designed to fully heat a home. 

Wood stoves and wood stove inserts are able to be the main heating source for your home, but you do not get to enjoy the same comfort you get with watching the flames dancing in an open fireplace. This is because on wood stoves, the units must be operated with the doors closed.

How hard is it to maintain a wood-burning fireplace?

If you haven't heard, there is a fair amount of upkeep required for maintaining a wood-burning fireplace. Your fireplace will need to be cleaned thoroughly at least once a year. If you are an avid burner and burn fires frequently then you may need to clean at least twice a year. Once before burn season and once after the season. A thorough cleaning can be performed by the homeowner, but it is sometimes better to coordinate a certified chimney sweep to perform your yearly maintenance. For cleaning the chimney it is recommended once every 2 years for regular burners and once every 4 years if it only gets used on occasion.

A Certified Chimney Sweep knows the signs to look for when they are performing their annual maintenance. Some companies also use camera systems to be able to take a look at the inside walls of your chimney to make sure there is no excessive creosote buildup or crumbling bricks. With the safety of you, your family, and your home on the line, you have to ask yourself if it's worth the peace of mind to have your chimney professionally cleaned or if you feel confident about doing it yourself.

If you choose to do your own chimney sweeping, then you will need to purchase chimney rods, and the proper size chimney brushes as well as an ash vacuum. You will also need to purchase some drop cloths and a ladder to get on top of your roof. The chimney will then need to be cleaned from top to bottom as well as from bottom to top, During this process it is also recommended to check the brick and mortar of your chimney as well as make sure the dampers and chimney cap are also in good shape. During this time it is also a good idea to check smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and to change batteries. 

How long does a wood-burning fireplace last?

This will depend on the type of fireplace that you have as well as how well the fireplace is maintained. Factory-built fireplaces that are cleaned regularly and burn wood that has the proper moisture content on a consistent basis can easily last between 10 and 20 years. Masonry fireplaces that are kept up can last a lifetime.

Check out our Resource Center for more information and helpful articles.

If you have any additional questions or if you would like to talk to one of our certified customer service specialists to help you with your project, you can call us now toll-free at 1-866-667-8454

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